Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Charles Spurgeon: A Lover of Reading

As a fourteen year-old, with the help of his uncle, young Charles became an ardent reader. This love for reading would remain for the rest of his life as he would read six books per week throughout his adult life. However, his ability to read difficult books was evident early on as he first read the timeless classic Pilgrims Progress at the wee age of six-years-old. It was through the love of reading that Spurgeon was be impacted in a very precocious manner. He would be indebted to the Puritan thinkers that wrote over two centuries before him that he would glean much from. As a matter of fact in his biography Spurgeon wrote that he “was completely molded and fashioned by those spiritual giants of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the Puritans. He stood in their noble tradition, in the direct line of their theology and outlook, and can be called the heir of the Puritans.” Furthermore, since the Puritans exemplified true revival and renewal, this was endemic to the ministry of Spurgeon.

J. I. Packer, in his book A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life believes that there were certain characteristics that were present in Puritan thought that are characteristic of true revival. He states with magnificent clarity the following:

Taking the early chapters of Acts as a paradigm, and relating them to the rest of the New Testament, with is manifestly a product throughout of revival conditions, we may list as marks of revival an awesome sense of the presence of God and the truth of the gospel; a profound awareness of sin , leading to deep repentance and heart filled embrace of the glorified, loving, pardoning Christ; an uninhibited witness to the glory and power of Christ; with a mighty freedom of speech expressing a mighty freedom of spirit; joy in the Lord, love for his people, and fear of sinning; and from God’s side and intensifying and speedy-up of the work of grace so that men are struck down by the Word and transformed by the Spirit in short order, making it appropriate pastorally as well as theologically to baptize adult converts straight after they have professed faith.”

These same principles were also found to be prominent in the ministry of Spurgeon. It is clear from his sermons that that he whole heartedly embraced those principles, especially the principle of prayer, which makes happen everything else. For instance, on one occasion Spurgeon lamented that the preacher should “never account prayer second to preaching. No doubt prayer in the Christian church is as precious as the utterance of the gospel. To speak to God for men is part of the Christian priesthood that should never be despised.” As a result of his prayer ministry, the presence of God was made manifest “leading to deep repentance and heart filled embrace of the glorified, loving, pardoning Christ; an uninhibited witness to the glory and power of Christ.”

His habit of reading also greatly impacted his preaching. We would read profusely throughout the week in preparation. Regarding his reading habits as it relates to his preaching, Lynn May Jr. writes, “The text and therefore the theme for the sermon on Sunday morning was not selected until Saturday evening. And his Sunday evening sermons were not outlined until Sunday afternoon. However, the week before was filled with extensive reading in biblical and theological materials.” His heart and mind would be so filled with Scripture and scriptural truth that it would flow freely from him when he was preparing his sermon.

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